New Elections Called
The Knesset yesterday voted 74 to 45 to dissolve itself and call for new elections. The vote, supported by Likud, came just hours before PM Netanyahu’s midnight deadline to form a government. Had the deadline expired, the President would likely have given the task of forming a government to Blue and White’s leader Benny Ganz, whose party won 35 seats in the election, the same number as Likud (although it’s almost impossible that he would have been able to form a government).
Although the right wing block won a total of 65 seats in the election, which is enough to form a government, PM Netanyahu could not convince Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beytenu to join with its 5 seats. That left Netanyahu with only 60 seats, one short of the required majority.
Lieberman refused to compromise on the issue of draft deferments for Haredi yeshiva students, which he vehemently opposes and which is a core element of his platform. The PM offered a compromise agreement, but Lieberman rejected it.
In an effort to circumvent Lieberman’s seats, PM Netanyahu tried to bring the left wing Labor party into the coalition bye offering it the justice Ministry and support for the candidacy of former defense minister Amir Peretz for the presidency. But Labor rejected the offer.
Netanyahu blasted Lieberman saying that the country was being forced to hold “unnecessary, wasteful elections because the people had their say. They didn’t have their say enough for what Mr. Lieberman wants.”
Blue and White leader Gantz accused Netanyahu of opting for “three crazy months” of a new campaign and millions of wasted dollars over new elections because he is “legally incapacitated” by looming indictments. “There is no other reason.”
One of the main issues that prevented Netanyahu from forming a unity government with Blue and White or Labor is his attempt to pass legislation granting the PM immunity from indictment, which he might be facing in the next few months.
Meanwhile, Jared Kushner is visiting Morocco, Jordan, Israel and Europe, to promote the upcoming US sponsored Bahrain Conference, which will deal with economic plans to improve the lives of Palestinians. Given that new Israeli elections will be held on September 17 followed by another period of coalition forming, it is unlikely that the US peace plan will be released before the year end.
Who will benefit from the new elections?
Will Bennet and Shaked try again to win enough seats to enter the Knesset, or will Shaked join Likud and bring a couple of seats with her?
Will voters punish Lieberman for preventing a new government by taking their votes to Likud and causing him to fall short of the threshold to enter the Knesset, or will they reward him for sticking to his principles and give him even more power?
Will voters decide to support Netanyau and assure that he has a clear majority by leaving the small parties and voting for Likud, or will they finally grow tired of his political moves to grant himself immunity from indictment and throw their support to Blue and White?
Will Arab voters come to the polls in droves and raise the threshold, thereby causing some of the smaller parties to fall short of reaching the threshold?
Anything can happen in new elections.
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